Securing Your Future
Through Successful Transitions
We charge only for our expenses.
Where do you get your most trusted advice?
From your peers.
Avon's principals are all deeply-experienced senior college administrators. We bring decades of successfull presidential and vice presidential leadership in all management disciplines.
Avon Associates bring decades of combined experience successfully leading private colleges in an unusually diverse range of geographic regions, economic environments, and market positions.
This strongly positions our team to assist many different types of institutions.
The foundation of Avon Associates lies in its principals’ commitment to higher education. With a wide range of backgrounds – enough overlap to work well together and enough difference to provide a rich 360° “toolkit” for clients – recently-retired executive practitioners decided they wanted to be part of the solution for higher education by focusing on institutions in transition.
They believe senior leadership transitions – occurring with increasing frequency – have never been more important, and deserve to be treated as more than a personnel matter.
Avon fills critical strategic gaps not covered by search firms.
Their service provides assessment and focus that informs planning, educates boards, and lays the groundwork for rapid, successful senior management transitions.
"At a moment when senior transitions are more frequent than ever (which means that new leaders are more at risk than ever) and at a moment when higher education itself is in continuing and unpredictable disruption, Avon Associates are well positioned to assist new leaders in negotiating the path through a successful transition.
"The principals have deep and broad experience in academic institutions and bring no baggage or fixed agenda about the particular institution or higher education in general. Their goal is to provide the new leader and the leadership team with tools they need to advance the institution’s best interests. They can provide the big-picture analysis of administrative competence, finances, enrollment, academic strengths and weaknesses, faculty morale, and student success — and they can provide hands-on coaching and targeted research.
"A small investment in Avon Associates will return great value to the institution: for an institution can only thrive if its leader has the tools and the support to be effective."
Susan Kress, retired VP Academic Affairs, Skidmore College, April 26, 2017
Roger Hull, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Yale Law School, began his career working at the Wall Street law firm of White & Case. After being appointed to the Board of Visitors of the College of William & Mary, he decided to switch careers and enter higher education administration. To accomplish his goal, Hull earned his master’s and doctorate at the University of Virginia, while also serving as Special Counsel to Linwood Holton, Governor of Virginia.
Hull next spent five years at Syracuse University--first as Vice President for Development, then as Vice President for Development and Planning.
Hull spent the next 24 years as a college president. The first nine years were spent turning around historic, but financially troubled, Beloit College. For the next 15 years, Hull served as president of Union College, where he led innovative and successful efforts that improved all aspects of the institution and its environs and raised $250 million that resulted in 24 new or renovated buildings and a tripling of the endowment . He was also chancellor of Union University (Albany Law, Albany Medical, and Albany Pharmacy schools).
Hull founded and oversees two foundations that offer support for at-risk school children in New York’s Capital Region and across the country.
Dan Lundquist was a college vice president for over twenty years and has over thirty-five years of successful External Relations experience at such diverse institutions as Coe College, the University of Pennsylvania, Union College, and the Sage Colleges.
Lundquist's service area specialties include:
The common thread in his wide-ranging career is Dan’s experience helping human capital enterprises optimize their operations and brand equity. Every institution for which Dan worked saw – from its own baseline – substantial and sustained improvement in enrollment, revenue, and visibility.
He is an honors graduate of Amherst where he studied history and English. His graduate work includes a masters in highered administration from the Harvard education and business schools.
Mark Sullivan served as President of The College of Saint Rose, a comprehensive liberal arts/career preparation college serving 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students in the heart of Albany, New York, from 1996 to 2012. He holds a doctorate in Education from Harvard University, a master’s in Public Administration from Syracuse University, and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Rhode Island. Prior to his presidency at Saint Rose, he served as Executive Vice President at Marist College, Vice President for Finance and Administration at Southern Connecticut State University, and Assistant Commissioner for Higher Education in Connecticut. In 1980, he served as Interim Commissioner for Higher Education in Connecticut.
During his presidency at Saint Rose, the college invested over $100 million in new facilities, raised $44 million in donations, doubled enrollment, and increased the size of the college’s endowment seven-fold.
After stepping down as president, Dr. Sullivan created the Institute for Higher Education Leadership at The College of Saint Rose which provides education and training for the next cadre of leaders in higher education across the country and around the world. His teaching and research focuses on policy development, leadership, and ethics in higher education.
Terry Weiner served for four years at The Sage Colleges as Provost. He previously had been the Dean of the Sage College of Albany. Before coming to Sage, Weiner had been at Union College in Schenectady, NY for 35 years. At Union he served as Associate Dean of Faculty for eight years and as a Special Assistant to the Interim President for one year.
Weiner had a successful academic career at Union, including serving as Chair of the Department of Political Science for seven years and earlier as Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. He received his Ph. D from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in sociology and has published in journals in political science, sociology, and health care.
During his long career, Weiner has also published and given talks at professional meetings and universities on issues in higher education, including organizing the modern liberal arts college department, faculty development and review, tenure and its future, and the role of faculty service in small colleges.
Karen Hitchcock has served as head of two major research universities: Principal and Vice Chancellor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada (2004-2008), and President of the University at Albany, State University of New York (1996 to 2004). She holds a Ph.D. in Anatomy from the University of Rochester and a bachelor’s degree in Biology from St. Lawrence University. Prior to her presidency at the University at Albany, she served in a number of academic leadership roles including Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate College at the University of Illinois, Chicago and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University at Albany. Dr. Hitchcock has served at the national level in a number of leadership roles, including the presidency of her professional society (The American Association of Anatomists) and Vice Chair of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Through the establishment of innovative university-business-government partnerships, major new research and academic programs and facilities have been established under her leadership, including a unique multi-sector, multi-billion dollar nanoscale sciences and engineering complex at the University at Albany. A new life sciences campus was also developed, including a state-of-the-art Cancer Center. Major increases in facilities (1,700,000 sq. ft.) and land holdings (88 acres) supported expanded research and educational programs; external funding increased 47 % and private giving 265% during her tenure. At Queen’s University, a major new Performing Arts Center was developed, an innovative science research park was established with industry and government partners and record levels of external funding and donor participation were achieved. Throughout her career, Dr. Hitchcock has focused on the creation of multi-sector partnerships that can help provide the resources and innovative approaches so important to the success and competitiveness of today’s institutions of higher education.
Hal Wilde served for 22 years as president of North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, during which that 156 year old private college doubled its full-time undergraduate enrollment, increased its endowment by 1000 percent, and 15 major construction projects were completed. A graduate of Amherst College with a doctorate in government from Harvard University, Wilde's background includes service in the administration of Beloit College and the University of Wisconsin System, and seven years in Wisconsin state government. Since retiring in 2013, he has been involved in mentoring college presidents, heading a nonprofit engaged in getting inner city students into and through college, and serving on the board of a nonprofit consortium that insures 130 church-related colleges.
Paul Loscheider served 38 years as the Chief Financial Officer of North Central College in Naperville Illinois. During his tenure, Paul helped manage the growth of the College which saw its enrollment triple, its endowment rise from $3 million to over $100 million, the annual operating budget rise from $4.6 million to near $80 million and managed the acquisition, remodeling and new construction that took the campus from 454,000 to 1.2 million square feet (42 acres to now 63 acres). Paul earned his undergraduate degree in Accounting from Lewis University and is a CPA. After two years as an auditor at Coopers & Lybrand, Paul began his career at NCC where he was Vice President for Business Affairs for 33 years. In addition to managing the financial operations of the College, Paul developed and supervised Auxiliary Enterprises,IInformation Technology Service,, Human Resources, Physical Plant, Bookstore, and Food Services among others.. He was also the primary leader in legal affairs, risk management, and insurance programs. Off-campus Paul was deeply involved in all aspects of “town-gown” relationships, promoting win-win partnerships.
Marcus Buckley has more than 45 years of administrative and financial experience, 24 of which were at the senior executive level. Most recently, he served as the Vice President for Finance and Administration/Treasurer at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York. At Saint Rose Marcus supervised all administrative and financial components of institutional operations, including budget, finance, comptroller, human resources, security, purchasing, auxiliary services, facilities management and planning. Beyond his core portfolio he provided support and counsel to other vice presidents and senior managers in areas such as development, admissions, public relations and academic affairs. Noteworthy accomplishments include leadership in strategic/master planning and new project development – including more than $150 million in campus construction and renewal – and more than $100 million in financing activities. Buckley also has a lengthy history of involvement in non-profit and civic affairs as well. In addition to work at the College of Saint Rose, he has also worked at Allegheny College, Simmons College and Boston University.
Diane Blake retired in July 2018 as Vice President for Administration and Finance at Union College in Schenectady, New York. She began her career there in 1987 as Comptroller and was promoted to Vice President for Finance in 1993 and Vice President for Administration and Finance in 1997.
Prior to her career at Union College, Diane worked for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in various financial capacities, having left in 1987 after working for five years as Budget Director.
Over her 42 year career in higher education Diane worked for six Presidents and was responsible for all facets of the Finance function including budget, financial statements, debt management, endowment administration, financial modeling and strategic planning. In addition, Diane has managed the Facilities function, Human Resources, Dining Services, Book Store and mailroom.
Diane has always been active in the local and national conversations beyond a purely financial focus. She works with the Schenectady United Way and the Chamber of Commerce Boards, as well as being active in EACUBO and served as Chair of the Small Institutions committee.
Blake holds a BBA from Siena College.
Avon's seasoned practitioners have track records of success that will support proactive strategic alignment in:
Pre-transition situation analysis
Focused assignments in specific areas
Imagine you are a new college president. You discover your board chair is "encouraging" college staff not to put contracts out to bid. Instead, he wants the college to use his family members and other "good friends of the college" for purchases ranging from cars and furniture to banking and insurance services. And senior staff have been doing business this way for years. The chair signs your contract and sets your salary, and he has close ties to the fundraising consultant who controls access to the college's largest donor. As the lyric from the Ghostbuster’s movie goes, “Who ya gonna call?”
Put the shoe on the other foot. You are a relatively new board chair of a small, tuition-dependent college and the school's long-serving president just died unexpectedly. He kept a lot of matters close to his vest, and there are whispers of a bad admission year and a big deficit on the horizon. No one in the senior staff has experience in presidential transitions, and less than a handful of trustees were on board the last time around. You know something about the use of search firms from your experience in industry, but your knowledge ends there. Tip-toeing through the minefield of shared governance? Putting together a forensic audit? Structuring a search process that brings long-term legitimacy and the right person to the job?
Who ya gonna call?
In the world of higher education, sadly, moments like these are not rare.
For the new college president, unless she served elsewhere in the same job, the insulation and isolation she discovers in this strange new environment can be crippling, without a positive and empathetic board-chair relationship. And for every "perfect" board chair, who provides sage advice, makes lead gifts with no strings attached, and listens sympathetically and confidentially as the new president navigates her way through the complexity of the environment and challenges she confronts in her first months and years on the job, there are many who, despite good intentions and best efforts, are in way over their heads.
Small wonder the turnover of college presidents and board chairs at under-endowed private (and hard-pressed public) institutions is so high--both a symptom and cause of the problem.
It is out of realities like these that an informal group of long-time college presidents and senior administrators, former friendly competitors who have reached emeritus status, has banded together to form a unique nonprofit enterprise, Avon Associates, that addresses a need and fills a niche in higher education currently not being served. Charging only for expenses (and, for longer-term engagements, having contributions made to designated charities), Avon Associates
is not affiliated with any for-profit entity, whether search firm or consulting practice.
Our purpose and goal is simple: Using expertise and experience gained over decades in the college and university trenches, we want to give back to a profession (and a vitally important sector of the American economy) that has been generous and rewarding to us.
Avon’s services are discrete and range from hand-holding and talking through problems over the phone to white papers and forensic audits. Each of us--our team is expanding as word gets out-- has successful experience as a president or chief academic, admissions, development, or financial officer, but we have also been involved in informally mentoring presidents and trustees one-on-one along the lines of what we are formalizing through Avon Associates. We are all volunteers, but, having "been there, done that," we are not the kind of volunteer who won't be in the foxhole when most needed.
Every era in higher education is seen as introducing a whole new set of challenges--today, from Title IX to online education to questions of free speech to the opioid epidemic--but in our experience the hard questions that keep presidents and board chairs awake at night—funding and fundraising, gender and racial issues, faculty roles and accountability—have been remarkably consistent since the 1960s.
Our hope is both to provide a “no-axe-to-grind” perspective and support for a new generation of leaders grappling with these issues, especially at fiscally challenged institutions, and to suggest solutions to the challenges faced.
“Who ya gonna call?” Avon Associates. For more information about Avon Associates and its principals, see www.avonassociates.org.
And if you are a current college president or board chair who may be in need of Avon Associates’ services, please email firstname.lastname@example.org